Washington, DC – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are close to finalizing a deal on Senate rules reform. Unfortunately, the incremental “reforms” in the agreement do not go nearly far enough to deliver meaningful change, the Fix the Senate Now coalition said today. If the agreement proceeds as expected, Senator Reid and the entire chamber will have missed an opportunity to restore accountability and deliberation to the Senate, while not raising the costs of obstruction.
While the provisions included in the likely agreement may help with streamlining certain nominations, potentially a significant step forward, the agreement avoids measures that would actually raise the costs of Senate obstruction. Neither the talking filibuster provision nor the shifting the burden provision is expected to be included in the final package. While certain details remain important and unresolved, such as potential conditions attached to the elimination of filibusters on the motion to proceed, we know enough to sum up the agreement as follows: a missed opportunity to provide meaningful filibuster reform, while advancing some decent procedural improvements.
To support the push for real reform, dozens of organizations involved in the Fix the Senate Now coalition sent over 2.5 million emails to members on the importance of fixing the Senate, leading to 100,000 phone calls and nearly one million petition signatures delivered to Senate offices. The coalition, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Americans who contacted their Senators supporting real change, views the minor reforms likely to take hold as a missed opportunity to deliver a truly functional, deliberative, and accountable U.S. Senate. However, there is no doubt the public’s demand for change helped to enact even these incremental steps forward and has put the Senate on notice that the obstruction must end.
Of particular note, the tireless advocacy of reform champions Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tom Udall (D-NM) in combination with the engagement of coalition members strengthened the negotiating hand of Senator Reid and helped bring Senator McConnell to a compromise position – not a place Senator McConnell has frequently found himself in recent years.
We hope the Senate proves our overall skepticism wrong and that the new agreement helps the chamber embark on a productive and deliberative session – the hundreds of thousands of individuals who joined the effort for a more functional U.S. Senate deserve this much.